As the (track) season draws to a close, I am trying to squeeze in some final races, preferably a 5000m. The provincial championships (PK or provinciaals kampioenschap in Dutch) are usually held somewhere in spring, but due to COVID19 they are instead being held in October. A nice opportunity for me! While my club is located in Brussels, we strangely enough do not compete in a Brussels championship, but instead go to the surrounding province of Flemish-Brabant. The situation in Belgium is… complicated. Whatever! As long as I can race. Provincial championship for Flemish-Brabant, here I come.
After my disastrous 20 km door Brussel, I took it easy for the first week. I did not run anywhere near race pace during this 20 km race, so the legs were not very beat up. I was however still recovering from the food poisoning I had endured: I slept a lot, my appetite was still low, and I had a lot of acid burps. Taking it easy meant I still ran, just not too much and everything as easy as needed. By the end of the week I felt better and did a 20 km long run. It was car free Sunday in Brussels and I did not want to let that day go to waste. Otherwise I might not have bothered with the longer run. Still totalled in the high 80s km for that week, but the body seemed fine with it.
The second week was a normal week again. I aimed for 100 km total with a workout on Thursday and a long run on Sunday. As workout I decided on a VO2max (Interval in JD speak) workout as that had been a while. It would be at ±5000m pace, always good to practice that feeling. The plan was 5×1200 in 4:00 per rep (3:20 per km, so a 16:40 5000m). Went largely OK, though my rests ended up being a bit longer than originally planned (I had wanted 2 minute rests) due to some talking, a toilet break, and feeling a bit shit after the fourth rep. It also was just generally not very pleasant because the track was fuuuull of kids not paying enough attention. Start of the new school year means more kids show up, I think.
Friday evening I drank too much, stood around too much, and barely slept. Apparently I am old now, because that really messed me up the next days. Saturday was just generally a shit day where I trudged through a jog, Sunday felt better, but my legs were still seemingly very beat up: calves (the right one especially) were very tight. Still hit the distance for the week.
The third and final week I had planned another VO2max workout on Tuesday, with the race on Saturday. I also planned to still sorta train through this race: keep the weekly distance, but rearrange runs to give some semblance of rest for the race. I did not want a “proper taper” because I had already planned to do a road 10k (the Belgian Championships) the week after for which I would do a mini taper.
My calves still felt pretty tight and sore on Monday, so the idea of doing a VO2max workout on Tuesday got less appealing. Add to that that I did not want to be weaving through kids all workout again. In the end I did a much easier workout: 4×5 min Threshold on the road. Should be about 3:35 per km (bit slower), but since I did it on the roads, I did it largely by feel. Don’t think I went quite as fast as I should have, looking at my heart rate afterwards, but it would have to suffice. The calves felt better that morning and this run did not aggravate them. Rest of the days I kept easy enough: 14 km, 13 km, 10 km with some strides, Saturday race day. Any distance I would still be missing after Saturday, I figured I could do on Sunday. In doubles if the body needed it to be easier.
Goal and Strategy
The signup list before showed there would be some way faster than me people, some around my pace, and some a bit slower. For me the goal was to run a good time, I did not expect to have a shot at the podium. Good time being: at least PR (16:46 unofficial PR vs 16:48.14 official PR; the goal being to break both), preferably sub 16:40, and really even nicer would be to go sub 16:30. I was not really sure what to expect during the race, so I did mentally prepare to at least partially time trial it. Some of the others had 16:2x filled in as recent times by the system, so my ideal scenario would be for them to go out at exactly such a pace so that I could hold on to it. Sub 16:40 was the minimum I was going to be happy with, I just assumed PRing would work out.
The race was not till 17:00, so getting ready for it eats up a lot of your day. I had my usual muesli and soy milk for breakfast (about 120-130g of muesli I think, double that in soy milk). Some tea, more water. Had lunch around 12:30: 4 slices of bread and a bowl or two of pasta leftovers (tomato sauce, courgettes, bellpepper). Allowed some water till close to 14:00 I think. Headed out around that time, arrived at the track a bit before 15:00. Scoped out the place, sat around a while, started warming up by 15:45. Jogged around for 45 mins/9 km. Got my race gear, walked to the 5000m start, switched into it and spikes, continued some jogging and short strides in spikes. Some stretching inbetween, as much toilet breaks as necessary too (and then some).
As the gun went, I immediately went to hang at the back of the pack that formed. These races have a tendency to start too fast and today ended up being no different. First 200m, everyone followed the few guys I knew would run 15:xx. Luckily, that idea did not last very long and those fast ones broke away from us. We had a pack of maybe seven people. Another guy from my club was also taking part. He has a faster PR than I do, but it had been two years since he tried a hand at racing and he had told me prior to the race that he did not expect to be able to beat my time today. Despite that, he was leading our pack at this point. Maybe not the best idea.
Our group got pretty strung out while I kept at the back. We were still going a bit too fast for my liking. I went through 600 metre in 15:48 pace, let alone what those guys in front of me were doing. I did not press the lap button as often as I would have liked and the girlfriend was not along to be standing on the side with a stopwatch. For the first 1400 metre I still averaged 16:17 pace, apparently. Slowed down compared to the first 600 at least? I think it was around here that I got a bit worried with the pacing. I could not do those calculations during the race, so all I realised was “we were ~6 secs faster through 600m, we’re still ~6 secs faster through 1400m, this is bad”. I let a bit of a gap develop between me and the rest of the group. I think by this point it might have been my team mate at the front, two guys from the ROBA team behind him, me behind them. Still very strung out and some small gaps showing in-between people.
I think I messed up by explicitly deciding to slow down. I overdid it and ran several laps at a pace slower than the 3:20/km required for 16:40. Because we had started out so much faster, I did not notice I was slowing down too much.
After some laps alone with a slight gap on the three in front of me, I started closing the gap again. Eventually I caught up to one of the ROBA guys. I think I stayed behind him on the home stretch and the turn after that: the home stretch had headwind that I hoped to avoid, the turn after that I did not want to veer out too much. After that I overtook him. There was a few meter gap from him to my teammate and his teammate. I closed that gap and was behind them for about a turn as well. Halfway the home stretch I realised I was settling in too much and started overtaking them. Did that by the time we reached the turn. Unsure how many laps were left by this point. Three or four maybe?
Maybe one and a half laps from the finish, the ROBA guy overtook me again. From what I recall, I did not even realise he was still hanging on to me. I think I let him lead most of the home stretch, then overtook him again by the end of it and started kicking for the final lap. Not sure how long he stuck to my tail, but he did not overtake me again.
Official results have me at 16:40.90 (strava also available) in seventh place (fifth if you discount the junior category). Just a second faster and I might have been happy. As it stands, I have to admit I am disappointed with the result. I feel like I could have gone faster. Definitely sub 16:40 and perhaps even sub 16:30.
The Garmin splits I have are shown below. Where the last split is adjusted to match my official time, I did not press stop on the line because I was busy leaning. Wish I had pressed another time or two in that big gap from 3000 to 4600.
|distance||lap time||lap pace||cumul||16:40 split||16:30 split|
From the lap time it is clear I just went too slow for a long stretch. Given how perfectly fine I realise I felt for most of it, I reckon I left quite some seconds out there in that slow stretch. Of course it is easy to say that now, maybe I would have blown up otherwise.
Either way, it is still a PR, even if it is not quite the one I was hoping for. On to a next one!
The podium finished in 15:2x. The ROBA guys finished in 16:45 and 16:58. My teammate finished in 17:12.
Side note. As I am done writing this report, I am quite surprised how little I remember of what happened when in the race. It is of course not a priority when you are focused on keeping the pace up, but dang, I really retained very little. Wish they had a camera with a bit of an eagle view of the track so I could piece things together afterwards. Maybe I should make a habit of taking some voice memos right after a race cause I did not have a clue about half the race details by the time I got home. The report I wrote down has everything in the right order, I just have no clue when what happened, and I know I am missing details that are so vague in my mind I cannot write them down without making the report too confusing.
Next weekend I will be taking part in the Belgian Championship 10 km on the road. No chance to be anywhere near the front of course, but that should have a bunch of decent runners at least. My other option was a track 10,000 metre nearby, but there was precious little information about that one, so I went for Belgian Champs instead. The fast guys will make up for the road not being as efficient as a track. I hope. The goal there will be dipping under 35 minutes. Getting a 10 km PR should be laughably easy. I have not raced a 10 km in so long that my PR is still the averaged split from my 10 mile race in spring 2019.
If there would be a 5000 m in the near future, I’d place all my eggs in that basket and try to go sub 16:30, but alas. The track season is coming to a close here in Belgium and I will have to wait till next spring. I will have to see it as an opportunity to instead improve myself over the coming months then.